There is a research study published by the National Academy of Sciences (January 18, 20110), that says that it is your genes (DNA) that help you choose your friends. In effect, your genes seem to want you to befriend people who are similar to yourself.
Does this sound like a startling revelation to you? It shouldn’t. But I find it fascinating that the media is making such a big deal out of this, like it was shocking news. Basically, I see it as a scientific stamp-of-approval on what we’ve all know for so long: “we like people that are like us.”
Here is how this relates to marketing and sales. In reporting on this new study, US News and World Report journalist, Maureen Salamon writes:
“Mapping specific genetic markers within each individual’s social network, the researchers learned that individuals tend to forge friendships with those who share two of six tested markers.
For example, those who carried the so-called DRD2 marker, which is associated with alcoholism, were apt to befriend other DRD2-positive friends, while those without the gene formed alliances with other DRD2-negative peers.
[Lead researcher in the study, James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego,] said this situation exemplifies homophily, a sociological term that means ‘love of like’ and illustrates the adage ‘birds of a feather flock together.'”
In simple terms, what this means to marketing is this: find out the personality traits of your BEST customers. Once you know those traits, you can seek out other people who have similar traits. Those are the people you should market to, because they will find your products and services more appealing than people with opposite personality traits.
That may not seem so profound, but when you think about creating a marketing strategy, it gives you a really good starting point. You aim at your best customers, and then their friends. From there, you expand the relationship circle and market to the friends of the friends.
This is Social Marketing
When you think about it, this really defines what social networking is all about. You build a large pool of prospects by working outward from your best customers. In social media marketing, you build outward to the friends of your friends. Why? Because your current customer has friends with similar likes and dislikes.
But there are quite a few flaws to the traditional social, or “tribal marketing” strategy. For starters, it is a slow and laborious process. You hope your marketing message goes viral, but most often, it does not. It starts slow, and can take a long time to build to sufficient volume because you build relationships one at a time.
Another flaw is that once the message passes from one person to another, the message can get distorted. It is like playing that childhood game: chinese telephone. The person at the end of the line got a different message than how it started out as.
Finally, this type of marketing strategy doesn’t work on all people – quite a few people aren’t hooked into the whole Facebook “thing,” and nor do they really want to be.
But there is a way to make this type of marketing, and many other type of marketing more effective.
The Underlying Flaw of Social Marketing
The underlying flaw the needs to be fixed is that you tend to focus strictly on “relationships.” Although that is a good thing, you may not ever get a clear picture of what are the similarities between the people, so you can build up a profile of your ideal customer and what makes them like each other.
Let me give you an example. I come from a big family, so my “friends list” on Facebook is pretty extensive. Just from blood-related people alone, I could easily have over 100 people in my friends list. Add the typical high-school and college friends, and that number really swells into several hundred.
However, I know that most of those people would not be customers for my products. They have very different interests than I do, mostly because they have a different personality than I do.
Buried in this latest scientific study is documentation of the actual genes that make up a person’s personality. For example, people with the gene known as CYP2A6 have, as one article about the gene study states, an “open personality.” This is another way of saying they are “extroverted.”
The “extrovert” is one of the eight different personality traits a person might be inclined to have. Those eight different traits, can be arranged to give 16 different combinations. If you’re aware of the well-known “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator,” which is often used by guidance-councilors to help people pick a career path, this will sound very familiar.
I do not have the extrovert gene turned on in my body. However, many of my family members do (as does about 75% of the world’s population).
One of the downsides to not having the extrovert gene is that I don’t find social media marketing all that appealing. To introverts, the concept of exposing every thought that goes through your mind on your Facebook wall is very foreign. I find comfort in solitude, where I can process my own thoughts and feelings. It is hard for my brain to do that and to also process the thoughts and feelings of hundreds of other people at the same time.
But the extrovert can accept this consciousness-flow from others. As an introvert, I don’t know what they do with it all, but they are comfortable having it flowing in to their personal space. In fact, they feel lonely when they don’t have it.
Social marketing works great for a lot of businesses; because it is built on a common personality trait that 75% of the world shares in common: being an extrovert. That is the reason why all the marketing guru’s say you MUST do social marketing. It works for them, because they are also extroverts.